The Scottish Law Commission has said it will include a review of the defamation law in its ninth programme of reform. That’s fantastic news for those of us in the Libel Reform Campaign who want to ensure that the space for free speech is just as wide in every corner of the United Kingdom.
David Leask at the Daily Herald reported the story and his article puts the review in context. Yrstrly is actually quoted briefly in the piece, but I prefer this quote from my colleagues at Scottish PEN:
We’re not just campaigning on this to plug a loophole – we’re trying to put in place a structure that supports a healthier media landscape in Scotland.
That’s exactly right. One of the reasons that there was political momentum to change the libel laws in England & Wales was that there were several examples of the law being abused. Public interest journalism and public debate was being chilled. So there were pressing practical reasons for reform. But reviewing and updating a law should not only happen at the point of failure. Free speech enables a healthy polity and Parliamentarians in Scotland should wright a law that expands the space for free speech. MSPs have an opportunity create a model law, one that also includes additional protections against libel bullying that the Westminster parliament did not have the wit or the ambition to deliver.